Kaiser ChiefsMountford Hall 4/6/19
From the slick merchandise stall in the foyer to Ricky Wilson’s reminders to pre-order their new album, this is a gig by a band who have a keen awareness of their commercial appeal. The gig’s a mix of their early material and the less palatable newer stuff. It feels as though they’re trying to carve a place for themselves in the rock cannon (a cover of The Who’s Pinball Wizard as part of the encore seems a calculated stab at relevancy) as they make their way to the bank, made all the more ironic by them coming on to Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing – one of several ironies through the night.
Ricky Wilson is an engaging frontman and he has a good voice. His patter with the crowd is easy (“We’re here to entertain you” and “Are you going to scream?”) and hints at a persona honed through various TV performances and a burgeoning, latter-day career as a TV celebrity. But it’s when he relaxes, removes his pristine blazer and gets going on the tambourine – expertly caught after being thrown on from the wings – that it becomes a more interesting and natural performance.
Kaiser Chiefs have some good songs, they really do. The indie-rock style of their initial albums, 2005’s Employment and 2007’s Yours Truly, Angry Mob, are pretty good and reminiscent of a particular cultural era that many in the crowd seem to be harking back to.
Part of the demographic is very much Radio 2 listeners and, while there are quite a few younger people here, there’s a sense the older part of the audience and band are reliving their glory days. There’s an awful lot of filming, taking of photos and uploading on to social media, but then, why not? It’s a well-designed show that is visually captivating.
The light show is on a big scale, timed to perfection to help work everyone in to a frenzy for the big hits. There’s a disco ball during Love Is Not A Competition and a truckload of paper streamers and party poppers which are fired in to the crowd intermittently. There’s also a backdrop of the band’s name in lights, which flashes throughout the performance – useful in case we forget who we’ve been watching when we go to download that new album, as requested.
Some of the newer material leaves the mood a bit flat. Some of it is pretty mediocre pop which doesn’t fare well when placed next to their older stuff: the crowd understandably go crazy for I Predict A Riot, Ruby and the pinnacle of the encore Oh My God.
15 years in the business has certainly honed Kaiser Chiefs’ self awareness; they know who their material is aimed at and who their core market is. And it’s here that the ironies lie: those who were young and carefree in the 2000s are now the characters in The Angry Mob who “read the papers everyday”. Even the band itself has mutated from relevant indie rockers to the more mundane “everything is average nowadays”.
But they’re popular: the packed hall and stomping and cheering which continues until they reappear for the encore shouts down a lot of the criticisms – people here are loving it and, at one and a half hours, the bottom line is it’s a very comprehensive tick box exercise in giving the mildly-disgruntled-by-middle-age mob what they want.